Gareth Bale has proved himself to be a world-beater for club and country and could be the key to bringing La Liga glory back to Real Madrid, writes WADE PRETORIUS in SoccerClub magazine.
The Welshman already has a stellar CV: he once owned the tag of the world’s most expensive player after his £85-million move from Tottenham to Real Madrid in 2013 and has two Champions League winner’s medals. After initially struggling to settle in Spain, the playmaker has won over the Real Madrid faithful and now faces his career’s biggest challenge: to complete his trophy cabinet with a league winner’s medal.
There were countless times, during his first 18 months at the Santiago Bernabeu, that Bale was subjected to jeers from the home crowd and the inevitable links with a move back to the Premier League followed. But the influential midfielder showed himself to be made of sterner stuff and fought to prove himself at one of the biggest clubs in the world.
Those jeers have changed to roars of appreciation, as the 27-year-old won over coach Zinedine Zidane with a number of sensational displays, including a stunning hat-trick against Deportivo La Caruna last January. Bale believes the worst is over after a fine 2015-16 season. ‘I’m integrating more with the team. It’s difficult the first few years, but once you get past that mark, it does get a bit easier,’ he said.
‘I feel I’ve turned a corner in that sense now. I’m enjoying my football here. I feel I’m maturing. My Spanish is getting better.’
Another key factor in Bale’s rise to prominence is the solid working relationship he maintains with the club’s No 1 superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo. While those attempting to fill their gossip columns may read into every little act of perceived annoyance, the on-field truth tells a different story. ‘I don’t need to go out for dinner with Benzema or Bale. What counts is what happens on the pitch,’ said Ronaldo on the topic.
Bale offers a similar stance. ‘We get on really well,’ he told the Times. ‘The press make much of things that maybe we don’t, but we get on fine. We’ve never had a problem. I’ve never had an argument with him.’
Part of what makes Bale work at Madrid is that, for the most part, he is content to play the support role, doing the groundwork the Portuguese star appears to feel is beneath him. The Welsh featured in just 23 La Liga outings last term after a number of injury niggles hampered his progress but he still finished with 19 goals and 11 assists to his name.
Madridistas will be delighted with Bale’s Euro 2016 exploits: the talisman led by example as he proved himself worthy of the tag of one of today’s ‘greats’. The former Spurs midfielder weighed in with three goals as Wales exceeded expectations in France.
Powerful on and off the ball, equally at home on the wing or playing through the centre, and buoyed by a successful international campaign with Wales at Euro 2016, an in-form and appreciated Gareth Bale could be the key to Los Blancos’ efforts to bring the La Liga title back to the Santiago Bernabeu.
– This article first appeared in issue 72 of SoccerClub magazine.